After a period of decline, the number of Russian visitors to Finland is now on the rise. In the January–July period 2017, the number of Russian visitors increased by 15 per cent and the number of visa applications by over 60 per cent from the previous year. However, Finland’s biggest competitors for Russian purchasing power are Estonia and e-commerce.

According to a report by the Finnish Commerce Federation,* online shopping has become more common among Russian tourists. A total of 66 per cent of all Russian visitors to Finland had shopped online in the last 12 months. Three years ago, the corresponding percentage was 36 per cent. As many as 43 per cent of the visitors had purchased goods online in the last month, compared to approximately 20 per cent in 2014.

Russian online shoppers are an appealing prospect for the Finnish tourism sector, because they use services in more diverse ways, compared to the average Russian tourist. The Finnish tourism sector is faced with a tough challenge, having to compete with international online stores and the attractive price-quality ratio of services in Estonia.

“Russian consumers who shop online and have high purchasing power are an immensely important target group for the Finnish tourism sector, but our service selection might be too limited for them. The most common type of trip from Russia to Finland is still a same-day shopping trip for food,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

Russians are not active users of services

Despite the brisk growth in the number of visa applications and visitors, Russian tourism to Finland is not what it used to be a few years ago. In 2013, the peak year of Russian tourism to Finland, the total amount of money Russians spent on shopping and services was approximately EUR 1.2 billion. In the last 12 months—from September 2016 to the end of August 2017—Russians spent a total of EUR 605 million in Finland (excluding payments made before the trip). The share of shopping was EUR 494 million, and the remaining amount was spent on services.

The average Russian visitor only spends EUR 36 on services per trip. Most of these are restaurant and cafeteria services. Because Russians who come to Finland on a day trip do not really purchase services, the average spending on services remains low. However, visitors who use services in Finland can spend notable sums of money on them.

“Russian tourists who spend money on services are wealthier than average. For example, Russian tourists who purchased spa services in Finland spent an average of EUR 360 on services per trip,” Kurjenoja says.

Food from Finland

Quality and prices motivate Russian shoppers almost as before, but there is less diversity in shopping habits. A few years ago, Russians were active in shopping abroad, also in Finland. In addition to food and household utensils, they frequently bought fashion, children’s clothes and cosmetics. Nowadays, Russian visitors seem to have lost their interest in shopping and mainly buy food in Finland.

“Although the number of visitors is increasing, it’s possible that consumption by Russians in Finland will not live up to the expectations, at least not in the near future. Russian purchasing power is too closely tied to the exchange rate of the rouble and oil prices, not to the growth and prosperity of the middle class. This makes the situation precarious for the Finnish tourism sector,” Kurjenoja predicts.

“The traditional food shopping trips near the border are tied to the rouble’s exchange rate but safe from the effects of international e-commerce or cheaper spas in Estonia. This could take Russian travel in Finland back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Russians mainly visited Finland on a day trip,” Kurjenoja says.

Further information: Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378,


 *Tutkimus- ja Analysointikeskus TAK Oy interviewed 7,380 Russians aged at least 15 leaving Finland between September 2016 and August 2017.